by TINTSWALO BALOYI
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – IN his home country, Chief Fortune Charumbira is a divisive figure but at the helm of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP), he is tasked with uniting a continent riven by colonial differences.
The election of Charumbira, denounced as a constitutional delinquent, to be the president of the Africa’s premier parliament has also called into question sincerity to democracy by PAP.
Zimbabwean traditional leader, Charumbira, has been elected to lead the organ, which is the legislative arm of the African Union (AU).
PAP was before the election bedeviled by the chaos that rocked it last year when violence and deadlock culminated in failure to elect the president of the South African-based organisation.
Charumbira (60) is a divisive figure in Zimbabwe, where he is the President of the National Council of Chiefs.
He has gained infamy for his endorsement of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) in general elections.
This is in contravention of the Zimbabwe Constitution, which mandates chiefs to be apolitical.
Charumbira, also alleged to be a beneficiary of government-endorsed land grabs, in 2018 defied a High Court order to withdraw his statement.
Some traditional leaders in Zimbabwe have never hidden their support of ZANU-PF.
Alongside veterans of the liberation struggle that brought independence from colonial master – Britain, are alleged to violate the rights mostly of villagers during electoral campaigns of the ruling party.
Hence there are some qualms over Charumbira’s election as the president of PAP.
“You can’t elect a ZANU-PF thug who disobeys court orders to lead a Pan African parliament,” said fierce Zimbabwean government critic, Hopewell Chin’ono.
He added, “It is a propaganda coup for ZANU-PF, but death knell to PAP.”
Another critic said, “This is disrespect to Zimbabwean people. This chief belongs to the mafia organization called ZANU-PF known for killing people since 1980 using state machinery.”
He added, “The Pan African parliament votes for him yet he is not even supposed to be a politician according to Zimbabwe Constitution.”
Exiled former Zimbabwean cabinet minister, Walter Mzembi, created further debate when he hailed Charumbira’s election.
He had to defend his sentiments after his online post elicited criticism.
Mzembi used the analogy if his high school days to justify his argument that Charumbira’s constitutional woes in Zimbabwe must not be used against him in his PAP role.
“I was always organising strikes against school authorities. So, they decided to make me a prefect. I joined the other side in enforcing discipline,” the ex-minister said.
Some ordinary Zimbabweans also backed Charumbira.
“Zimbabweans are pathetic,” Tendayi Manyange blasted.
“Instead of celebrating one of their own being elected to this high office they are busy having a go at him. How out of step they are with the rest of Africa is shocking,” Manyange said.
Following the election of a Zimbabwean chief-cum-politician to head the PAP, there have been some fears the European Union (EU) could withdraw financial support to the parliament.
South Africa’s Pan Africa opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader, Julius Malema, who backed Charumbira, hit back.
“They (European Union) can withdraw their money. They can actually go to hell with their money,” Malema told media.
South Africa’s Parliament is relieved the crisis over the election of a PAP head is finally resolved after the completion of elections.
Charumbira emerged victorious following a protracted battle over the “principle of geographical rotation”, which resulted in the abrupt stopping of the PAP’s fourth Ordinary Session in June last year (2021).
The AU Commission had to intervene and suspend the session as it descended into chaos over the disagreement.
South Africa believes now that the process of reconstituting the continental parliament is complete, the focus now is to revive the PAP’s drive for Pan-African unity, collective prosperity, inclusive social and economic development, including regional and continental integration.
“With Chief Charumbira at the helm we are confident that these aspirations of the people of the continent will not be a pipe dream,” said South Africa’s Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Amos Masondo.
Charumbira has pledged to be inclusive and work across regions to restore the image of the PAP.
He has hit the ground running, holding consultations with various stakeholders including legislators and host country officials.
“I will be a leader of everybody. I want to fight these divisions that are based on (foreign) languages,” Charumbira said.
– CAJ News